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Archive for May, 2009

Posted by ZP Heller on May 29th, 2009

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More and more former interrogators and counterinsurgency experts are using Dick Cheney’s recent ubiquity to expose his iniquity regarding the torture and abuse of detainees. Earlier this week, I wrote about Major Matthew Alexander, the former Senior Interrogator who conducted over 300 interrogations in Iraq and supervised 1,000 more. Alexander relied upon conventional means of interrogation, and his efforts led to the capture and killing of al-Qaeda leader Abu Mousab al-Zarqawi. Yet Alexander also witnessed the perilous consequences of Cheney’s torture policy.

In an exclusive interview with Brave New Foundation, Alexander said, “At the prison where I conducted interrogations, we heard day in and day out foreign fighters who had been captured state that the number one reason they had come to fight in Iraq was because of torture and abuse, what had happened at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib.”

Today, MoveOn.org and VoteVets.org joined the growing movement to amplify the testimonies of former interrogators and reveal the repercussions of treating prisoners inhumanely. Their joint campaign features a video with Jay Bagwell, an Afghanistan veteran and counterintelligence agent, who reaffirmed Alexander’s assessment of Cheney’s torture policy. According to Bagwell, “Torture puts our troops in danger, torture makes our troops less safe, torture creates terrorists. It’s used so widely as a propaganda tool now in Afghanistan. All too often, detainees have pamphlets on them, depicting what happened at Guantanamo.”

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Posted by tomhayden on May 29th, 2009

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The most powerful grassroots organization of the peace movement, MoveOn, remains silent as the American wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan simmer or escalate.

Last December 17, 48.3 percent of MoveOn members listed “end the war in Iraq” as a 2009 goal, after healthcare (64.9 percent), economic recovery and job creation (62.1 percent) and building a green economy/stopping climate change (49.6 percent–only 1.5 percent above Iraq.) This was at a moment when most Americans believed the Iraq War was ending. Afghanistan and Pakistan were not listed among top goals which members could vote on.

Then on May 22 MoveOn surveyed its members once again, listing ten possible campaigns for the organization. “Keep up the pressure to the end the war in Iraq” was listed ninth among the options.

Afghanistan and Pakistan were not on the MoveOn list of options.

Nor was Guantánamo nor the administration’s torture policies. (“Investigate the Bush Administration” was the first option.)

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Posted by ZP Heller on May 29th, 2009

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As the House geared up to vote on a $100 billion supplemental wartime funding bill a few weeks ago, 11 veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq traveled to DC to tell Congress to Rethink Afghanistan. They stood on the Capitol steps with signs that read: “How Many Civilians Are We Killing?” “Is There an Exit Strategy?” and “Have We Exhausted Non-Military Options?” They visited 63 Congressional offices, telling all who would listen about the dangers of the current plan to commit 21,000 more troops and hundreds of billions more taxpayer dollars to the war in Afghanistan.

Though the supplemental bill eventually passed the House, the silver lining is that these vets and the Rethink Afghanistan campaign were able to grab Congress’s attention. What’s more, while on the Hill, it became clear to these vets that the more winnable fight here could be urging members of Congress to back Rep. Jim McGovern’s call for an exit strategy in Afghanistan. McGovern’s bill would require Defense Secretary Gates to create an exit strategy by the end of the year. You can support these brave vets and tell Congress we need an exit strategy.

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Posted by Steve Hynd on May 28th, 2009

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Gareth Porter was recently interviewed by Real News Network about the implications of General Stanley McChrystal’s appointment as the senior military man in Afghanistan. He told Paul Jay that a civilian component to a counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan is now essentially empty talk.

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Posted by ZP Heller on May 27th, 2009

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Let’s debunk Dick Cheney’s pernicious lies about torture once and for all. Let’s look past the mainstream media frenzy over the personal feud between Obama and Cheney, past the ludicrous GOP talking points, and instead focus on a real story that could allow us to hold Cheney accountable. Major Matthew Alexander is a former Senior Interrogator who conducted more than 300 interrogations in Iraq and supervised over 1,000 more, including that of al Qaeda-in-Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi — and he did so using traditional methods. In an exclusive interview released today by Brave New Foundation, Alexander said Dick Cheney’s torture policy “literally cost us hundreds if not thousands of American lives.”

According to Alexander, the torture and abuse conducted at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay became the number one recruiting tool for foreign fighters and suicide bombers who attacked coalition forces in Iraq. Huffington Post’s Ryan Grim highlights the importance of Alexander’s testimony:

Alexander easily takes down Cheney’s arguments. The most immediate blow Alexander strikes is, of course, his obvious success, which undercuts Cheney’s case for more brutal techniques. Alexander also engages on the level of principle. For Cheney, the suggestion that torture is a poor strategy because it aids terrorist recruitment is nothing more than old-fashioned blame-America-first cowardice.

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Posted by Jodie Evans on May 26th, 2009

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For eight years, many Americans have justified the war in Afghanistan as a moral battle to “protect” Afghan women. But Afghan women tell another story: more U.S. war will bear them more suffering.

Three decades of foreign occupation — with little sign of ending — have led to the complete collapse of more than a century of progress in Afghanistan for women’s rights, which reached their peak in the 1970s. Occupation destroyed Afghan public services and created incredible poverty, a perfect void of power ready to be filled by the Taliban (encouraged by the U.S. to counter Soviet influence). Many Afghan women say the collapse poses a greater threat to women’s lives: 87 percent are illiterate, 1,600 out of every 100,000 mothers die while giving birth or of related complications, and 1 and 3 women experience psychological, emotional or physical abuse.

Since the 2001 invasion, despite rhetoric of “saving” Afghan women, U.S. policies put in place did not do so. Meanwhile, this week, Congress is debating a $84.2 billion war funding bill that designates only 10 percent of the funds for development assistance — the rest goes to military efforts. If the United States really cared about the women and children of Afghanistan, it would fund real needs-health care, education, food security- and minimize spending on weapons systems and combat troops. Gen. Petraeus himself outlined a counter-insurgency doctrine of 80 percent non-military and 20 percent military, and told the Associated Press earlier this year that “you don’t kill or capture your way out of an industrial-strength insurgency.”

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Posted by robertgreenwald on May 26th, 2009

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Dick Cheney says that torturing detainees has saved American lives. That claim is patently false. Cheney’s torture policy was directly responsible for the deaths of hundreds if not thousands of American servicemen and women.

Matthew Alexander was the senior military interrogator for the task force that tracked down Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq and, at the time, a higher priority target than Osama bin Laden. Mr. Alexander has personally conducted hundreds of interrogations and supervised over a thousand of them.

“Torture does not save lives. Torture costs us lives,” Mr. Alexander said in an exclusive interview at Brave New Studios. “And the reason why is that our enemies use it, number one, as a recruiting tool…These same foreign fighters who came to Iraq to fight because of torture and abuse….literally cost us hundreds if not thousands of American lives.”

Watch our exclusive interview with Matthew Alexander.

As Ryan Grim at the Huffington Post reported this morning, “Alexander easily takes down Cheney’s arguments…The video is at once an effective rebuke of the former vice president and a sign of how the changing media landscape can flatten the field of political debate.”

Professional interviews like this one are possible because your support has helped us build Brave New Studios, a state-of-the-art studio at our Culver City offices. Brave New Studios allows us to do the work the mainstream media routinely fails to do: to rebut lies from people like Dick Cheney with the personal testimonies of those like Mr. Alexander who have seen the facts on the ground. We are committed to bringing you more exclusive interviews and need your help. Contribute to Brave New Studios with a $20 donation.

With the mainstream media obsessing over the personal feud between the President and the former Vice President instead of on the critical question of whether torture has led to thousands of American casualties, the work at Brave New Studios and your contribution are more important than ever.

Don’t forget to digg this video, a powerful way to spread our message.

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Posted by Jeremy Scahill on May 23rd, 2009

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The Department of Defense paid former Halliburton subsidiary KBR more than $80 million in bonuses for contracts to install electrical wiring in Iraq. The award payments were for the very work that resulted in the electrocution deaths of US soldiers, according to Department of Defense documents revealed today in a Senate hearing. More than $30 million in bonuses were paid months after the death of Sgt. Ryan Maseth, a highly decorated, 24-year-old Green Beret, who was electrocuted while taking a show at a US base in January 2008. His death, the result of improper grounding for a water pump, has been classified by the US Army Criminal Investigations Division (CID) as a “negligent homicide.” Maseth’s death had originally been labeled an accident. Bonuses were paid to KBR in 2007 and 2008, after CID investigators had officially expressed concerns about the quality of KBR’s electrical work. For its part, KBR denies any culpability for the electrocution deaths.

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Posted by Tom Engelhardt on May 22nd, 2009

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(Cross-posted from TomDispatch.com)

Yes, Stanley McChrystal is the general from the dark side (and proud of it). So the recent sacking of Afghan commander General David McKiernan after less than a year in the field and McChrystal’s appointment as the man to run the Afghan War seems to signal that the Obama administration is going for broke. It’s heading straight into what, in the Vietnam era, was known as “the big muddy.”

General McChrystal comes from a world where killing by any means is the norm and a blanket of secrecy provides the necessary protection. For five years he commanded the Pentagon’s super-secret Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), which, among other things, ran what Seymour Hersh has described as an “executive assassination wing” out of Vice President Cheney’s office. (Cheney just returned the favor by giving the newly appointed general a ringing endorsement: “I think you’d be hard put to find anyone better than Stan McChrystal.”)

McChrystal gained a certain renown when President Bush outed him as the man responsible for tracking down and eliminating al-Qaeda-in-Mesopotamia leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The secret force of “manhunters” he commanded had its own secret detention and interrogation center near Baghdad, Camp Nama, where bad things happened regularly, and the unit there, Task Force 6-26, had its own slogan: “If you don’t make them bleed, they can’t prosecute for it.” Since some of the task force’s men were, in the end, prosecuted, the bleeding evidently wasn’t avoided.

In the Bush years, McChrystal was reputedly extremely close to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. The super-secret force he commanded was, in fact, part of Rumsfeld’s effort to seize control of, and Pentagonize, the covert, on-the-ground activities that were once the purview of the CIA.

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Posted by Rick Reyes on May 21st, 2009

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Last week, as Congress moved to pass nearly $100 billion in war funding through a supplemental bill, 10 other veterans who served in Afghanistan and Iraq joined me in Washington, D.C., to visit Members of Congress and staff to encourage them to vote against the funding.

I do not know which was harder, seeing the impossibility of success in Afghanistan or seeing the impossibility within Congress to voice dissent from the administration. As a corporal in the U.S. Marines — who served in both Afghanistan and Iraq and who remains willing to give my life for this country — let me say from experience that our current strategy will not bring security to Afghanistan or to America.

What pained me in Afghanistan was witnessing too many civilian casualties, too many children without food and women without husbands, too many innocent Afghans who became anti-American because of our actions. But what pains me now: witnessing too many Members of Congress, too many administration officials and too many think-tank experts support this military approach.

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